BERNARDS TWP., NJ - The Bernards Board of Education has hired another Student Assistance Counselor for Ridge High School who is due to begin the position on or before April 1. The new counselor's hiring was discussed at a meeting where the Board of Education and school administrators discussed steps being taken to address student mental health.

Jillian Shadis, district supervisor of school counseling, also presented the school board at its Jan. 23 meeting with a report on mental health trends throughout kindergarten through Grade 12.

After hearing the report, Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said the district is looking for more information on what students discuss when they meet with counselors. Markarian also said the school district is taking "inventory" of programs and curriculum for social and emotional health throughout the school system. After doing so, he said the school administration will "look for any holes that we might have in that" system.

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Second Student Assistance Counselor Hired at Ridge

Later during the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Sean Siet said that a new Student Assistance Counselor has been found to fill a vacancy at Ridge created by the recent resignation of Megan Hoffman.

In an email this week, Siet said the board has hired Toni Anthony, previously a guidance counselor for the Millburn school district. Anthony will start in the position on or before April 1.

Chad Gillikin will remain as the second Student Assistance Counselor at Ridge, with no changes planned for assignments, Siet added in the email.

The entire meeting, including Shadis' presentation and comments from school officials, board members and the public, is posted online.

During her report, Shadis covered such issues as the number counseling sessions that students, particularly those at Ridge and at the grades 6 to 8 William Annin Middle School, held during the 2015-16 school year.

Shadis noted that the greatest number of students to visit a counselor to discuss such issues as anxiety, depression, stress or a crisis were 6th grade students at WAMS, and juniors at the high school. She noted that neither was surprising, as both years involved many transitions and much work.

Shadis also reported on suicide intervention responses throughout the district, adding that administrators are even sometimes called to respond to students who may be feeling suicidal at the elementary school level.

During the 2015-16 school year, the number of suicide interventions was 9 at Ridge; 18 at WAMS; one each at the Cedar Hill and Oak Street elementary schools, and zero at Mount Prospect and the Liberty Corner schools, according to the presentation.